In just a few days, South Africa will go to the polls as we celebrate 20 years of democracy. As a country it’s our 5th time going to the polls while for others it’s our second and for the hashtag born-frees, it will be the very first. Most of us, 25 or under, consider ourselves Madiba’s own children. We were born after apartheid or towards the very end of it and so are too young to remember the magical moment when Madiba walked the Grande Parade in Cape Town as a free man. Soon after that came another magical moment that was long fought for – the first democratic elections of South Africa.
Fast forward two decades. Most of us are now faced with the choice of voting or boycotting the ballot altogether. In the 2009 elections, only 56,7% of the registered voters turned up on the day. While the youth are the majority of the population, we are not the majority of the electorate (amount of registered voters). Less than a quarter SA’s total population of born-frees is registered to vote and this is no indication of how many will end up actually voting. That is in spite of numerous attempts to get us registered and voting.
I see no changes….
It seems Tupac had some great insight into the minds of many South Africans. People say that nothing has changed since Twenty years ago and that voting is a pointless activity. But it isn’t. It was voting that brought in the ANC government in 1994 and the DA into power in the Western Cape. Saying that voting doesn’t change anything may just be a way to help you sleep better at night while the democratic participants make their voices heard. Quite a few changes have actually taken place in education, infrastructure freedom of press etc.
Voting does bring change. It can change the dynamics in parliament- who has the majority, how strong the opposition parties are etc. Voting is a way of changing what’s on offer – or if you like what’s on offer already then vote to keep it there.
We can all vote, right?
According to The Constitution, everyone has the right to vote. But, like many things in South Africa this is just something that looks pretty on paper. In reality, you need two things to vote: an ID document and a home address. This means that if you are homeless, you will not be able to register or vote. So the people that REALLY need better service delivery, housing and job opportunities cannot vote for parties that can assure this. Your vote can help them.
But, who do I vote for ?
You may not be able to find that one party that ticks all your boxes but you should be able to find one that represents you the most. It’s like searching for the perfect partner – it’s fruitless; sooner or later you will have to get over some faults and shortcomings. Nobody’s perfect and no party is perfect either. Democracy may not be the best system but it’s the best of all the bullish*t out there. Voting is democracy in action. Be sure to vote smart.
Paying homage to anti-aparthied heroes doesn’t mean voting for the party they were aligned to. There were many people that fought injustices and for the right to vote that were not even a part of a political party. I dedicate my vote to these heroes – to Steve Biko, Govan Mbeki, Hector Peterson, the Black Sash movement and the victims of Sharpeville . I dedicate this vote to Nelson Mandela.
So the question to ask, as May 7 approaches is: what South Africa do you want to wake up in? Vote for the party that can help you get just that.
See you at the ballots. x
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